Shell of a Man is the story of one man and many men. It is both fact and fiction. Much of what you will hear is true. Some of what you hear is artistic license. That doesn’t make it less real.
The story is personal for me. It is my attempt to make amends – to say, “I’m sorry” and “Thank you.” It is my attempt to bring earned awareness to the needs of our veterans and to pay homage to our men and women in uniform for their sacrifices and the relentless pain those sacrifices have caused.
SHELL OF A MAN
"I just finished reading Shell of a Man. It was wonderful. The dialogue was fabulous. It brought tears to my eyes. As a full length film, it would be Oscar material." ~Burton Brewer, owner - The Beacon Magazine ~
SHELL OF A MAN
Shell of a Man is SOLD OUT for all three performances. I am extremely grateful to Connie Kartell of Harbourside Place's management team for her continued support. Without the faith and trust she has placed in me, the Vanilla Box Theatre would not have been made available to us.
At the risk of sounding sappy, I also want to thank everyone who chose to buy tickets and share their evening with us. They took a leap of faith. Shell of a Man has never been performed on a Broadway stage. Robert Logan's name has never appeared in headlines. And I am mostly an unknown entity as an author.
I have to believe that, like me, our audience cares deeply about our veterans. I firmly believe that until we give an issue of value a name and a face... until we personalize it... it will remain someone else's problem. My hope is that people will not forget Robert's story after they leave the theater. My hope is that they will continue to spread the message long after the curtain comes down.
Maybe, if we talk long enough and loud enough, we can finally get our veterans -- past, present and future -- the health care they deserve.
Reprinted from the Jupiter Courier - November 2016:
Shell of a Man -- How one man’s story became a life’s mission
Most people have a passion. For some, creative hobbies like cooking, gardening, crocheting, and painting offer spiritual fulfillment. For others, good health is an obsession, and they spend a lot of time exercising. As long as there is sweat on their brow, they feel sanctified.
Writing does for me what a ten course meal does for a gourmet or an elliptical does for a gym rat. I’m not talking about the annual Christmas letter to family members I haven’t seen in 20 years. Writing for me must have a purpose beyond socializing. I am genetically programmed to be a caregiver. If I hear of a social wrong that needs to be righted, I am compelled to shine a spotlight on it. Words are my oxygen. Without them, I fear I will wither away like unpicked grapes on a vine.
I vividly remember the day a quote by Lord Byron became my life’s mission. “A drop of ink may make a million think.” It was mid-2009 and after a two year wait, the man who kidnapped and assaulted my daughter was found guilty and sentenced to three life sentences without possibility of parole. While the emotional pain of this brutal attack would never go away, I hoped that I and my family would now be able to rebuild our lives… and we did… but not in the way I expected.
Needing to heal from the inside out, I began putting my thoughts and feelings on paper, which allowed me to breathe normally once again. Writing was cathartic and when I shared my words with others who had survived a trauma, they, too, found a measure of peace. I became an advocate for survivors of assault and met many wonderful people who were using life’s lessons to help others. Some of those people were veterans suffering with PTSD. These brave men and women had never left the battlefield even though, for some of them, the war had ended 40 plus years ago. One man stood out from the rest. After reading a column I published supporting better healthcare for our veterans, he wrote to thank me. That was the beginning of a rewarding and deeply personal relationship. Even though I have never met Robert Logan (not his real name) face to face… even though I have never heard his voice except through the emails we exchange, he is the brother of my heart, my muse and my mentor.
A cyber pen pal relationship is how Shell of a Man came to be written. The true events of Robert’s life was a five year journey of eye opening revelations. The trip took me from the cotton fields of Missouri to the jungles of Vietnam to the present day. With Robert’s permission, I turned his stories into a stage production and shared the most private details of his life with the world. This play is more than a recitation of one man’s triumphs in the face of adversity. It is a tribute to the resilience of all men and women who have faced tragedy and persevered.
Shell of a Man was first performed at the Dallas Convention Center in April 2015. The audience’s outpouring of love was beyond my wildest dreams. In September of this year, with the help of the wonderful people at Harbourside Place, I brought the play to our Jupiter community as a dinner theater production. Another Broken Egg Café allowed me to turn a portion of their restaurant into an intimate venue for sixty people. Again, the audience embraced Robert’s story with many of them saying that they were “riveted” to their seats.
Since I was unable to accommodate everyone who wanted tickets for the September show, Shell of a Man will return to Harbourside on Veterans Day Weekend – November 10 through 12. Dinner will again be served at Another Broken Egg Café… a fixed price menu with a choice of three main courses, side dishes, wine or soft drink. Thanks to the generosity and support of the Harbourside management team, the play will now be presented in a nearby storefront theater created especially for this event. Based on the comments from previous audiences, people are looking for something “different.” My goal is to continue to bring original, intelligent, affordable entertainment to our Jupiter community.
I hope you will join me, my cast and my production team as we pay homage to our brave men and women in uniform. Rejoice with us as we applaud Robert Logan’s strength and determination in triumphing over life’s difficult moments. I promise you will not forget this story after you leave the theater and, maybe, you, too, will find your passion while watching Shell of a Man.
Tickets for dinner and the show ($40.00) are available by calling 561 385-1584. Dinner begins at 5 pm. The show starts at 7 pm. Seating is limited but enjoyment is plentiful.
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND
Shell of a Man returns to Harbourside for three nights
Dinner Theatre Show pays homage to veterans
Palm Beach Gardens, Fl: Local playwright Donna Carbone returns to Harbourside with another dinner theater presentation of her play, Shell of a Man. This time the production will be offered with a bit of a twist. Ticket holders will enjoy a delicious prix fixe meal at Another Broken Egg Café and then walk a few steps to the new Vanilla Box Theatre, a venue created especially for this event. The dates are November 10, 11 and 12 – Veterans Day weekend. Dinner begins at 5:00 pm. The show begins at 7:00 pm.
Carbone originally brought the play to Harbourside in September and the demand for tickets far exceeded available seating. The show was held inside Another Broken Egg Café where Carbone and her production team had created an intimate theater environment. The most often heard comment from those lucky enough to see Shell of a Man was “Riveting!” In a recent interview, Carbone said, “I was standing off stage watching the audience. Grown men were crying. Women were leaning forward in their seats as though trying to touch the actors. One audience member told me that he forgot he was watching a play. He believed that the real Robert Logan was on stage speaking to him.”
Shell of a Man is a true story. Robert Logan is a Vietnam veteran. He was raised in the Jim Crow south and picked his first bag of cotton at the age of two. The hardship of his early life taught him the skills needed to survive a 40 year battle with PTSD. Carbone’s goal is to personalize this much talked about but barely understood condition in order to raise awareness of the need for better healthcare for our men and women in uniform. The play features Ewan Leslie as Robert Logan, Jeanne Tidwell as Adriana Fleming and Lee Marlow as Dawn Peters. “I’m so proud of my actors,” she stated. “There is a tremendous amount of dialogue in this show, but Ewan, Jeanne and Lee are passionate about Robert’s story, and that passion is evident in their performances.”
When asked, Carbone explained how Shell of a Man came to be written. "In 2011 I published two columns supporting better healthcare for veterans. A Vietnam vet wrote to me, expressing his thanks and beginning what was to become a much cherished and, often, painful friendship. He calls himself Robert L. We've never met. His face is but a ghostly image in an old photograph he sent to me. I hear his voice only through the emails we exchange. I believe that distance and the anonymity of the internet allowed Robert to share his life with me in a way few others have heard. What he said forced me to accept that, despite being well-read, I knew nothing about the effects of serving in a war zone. Although Shell of a Man is told through the life of one man, it is in actuality a story that touches the lives of all of our veterans.”
Carbone expressed her gratitude to Harbourside Place, especially Connie Kartell, who manages the venue’s charitable giving and community service endeavors. “North county residents are lucky to have such dedicated people and such a beautiful venue at which to showcase the many talents of Palm Beach County residents. Without Connie, the Vanilla Box Theatre would not exist and Shell of a Man would be gathering dust on a shelf. She is a true lover of the arts, a woman of deep caring and a visionary,” Carbone beamed.
The dinner portion of the evening will begin at 5:00 pm at Another Broken Egg Cafe and will include a fixed price menu with a selection of three main courses. The meal will include wine and/or a cold beverage. The cost for both the dinner and the show is $40.00. The play will begin at 7:00 pm. Seating is limited. Tickets can be ordered by calling 561 385-1584.
Playwrights Horizons: Shell of a Man is a moving portrait of a Vietnam veteran rendered with warmth and generosity."
Steppenwolf Literary Manager: I wanted to let you know that I had an opportunity to read your play, Shell of a Man. I admire your will to bring this devastating story of bravery to the world through the lens of the theatre. I found your writing to be thoughtful and poetic..."
PB Post/Letter to the Editor: “The impact this show had on the audience was palpable as evidenced by the silence and tears of the men and women who were riveted by the dialogue and the performances. The author and the actors brought the story of one man, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, right into the audience’s hearts and souls. By creating this successful dinner show production, Donna Carbone proved that people are hungry for more than good food.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Harbourside Place welcomes local playwright with dinner theater
Another Broken Egg Café to host Shell of a Man
Thursday evening – September 1, 2016
Palm Beach Gardens, Fl: Donna M. Carbone, a freelance writer/teacher/journalist living in Palm Beach Gardens is being honored by Harbourside Place and Another Broken Egg Café with a dinner theater presentation of her play, Shell of a Man on Thursday evening, September 1st. According to Carbone, Shell of a Man is based on the life of an actual Vietnam veteran and focuses on the effects of his 40 plus year battle with PTSD. Her goal is to personalize this much talked about but barely understood condition in order to raise awareness of the need for better healthcare for our men and women in uniform. The play will feature three actors who train at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre – Ewan Leslie as Robert Logan, Jeanne Tidwell as Adriana Fleming and Lee Marlow as Dawn Peters. Carbone mentioned that both Tidwell and Marlow were experienced actors but said Leslie would be treading the boards for the first time in his career. “I’m so proud of my actors,” she stated. “There is a tremendous amount of dialogue to memorize in a short amount of time, but Ewan, Jeanne and Lee are passionate about Robert’s story, and I know that passion will show in their performances.” Another Burt Reynolds Institute student, Kevin Mayle, is responsible for creating the wonderful poster advertising the play.
In a recent interview, Carbone explained how Shell of a Man came to be written. "In 2011 I published two columns supporting better healthcare for veterans. A Vietnam vet wrote to me, expressing his thanks and beginning what was to become a much cherished and, often, painful friendship. He calls himself Robert L. We've never met. His face is but a ghostly image in an old photograph he sent to me. I hear his voice only through the emails we exchange. I believe that distance and the anonymity of the internet allowed Robert to share his life with me in a way few others have heard. What he said forced me to accept that, despite being well-read, I knew nothing about what a black man endured being raised in the Jim Crow south or the effects of having served in a war zone. Although Shell of a Man is told through the life of one man, it is in actuality the story of many men.”
David Esposito, the manager of Another Broken Egg Café, said that he was thrilled to welcome Carbone for a second time at the restaurant. In April, he and his staff hosted Beignets, Coffee and Conversation—an author book signing for Carbone after the successful release of her first crime novel, Through Thick and Thin. The event was a huge success with people asking for more of the same. Carbone expressed her gratitude for Esposito’s support and that of the management team at Harbourside Place including Sarah Lott, the Director of Marketing and Events, and John Hamma, Marketing and Events Coordinator. Also playing a pivotal role in bringing Shell of a Man to Harbourside is Connie Kartell, who manages the venue’s charitable giving and community service endeavors. “Our community is blessed to have such dedicated people and such a beautiful venue at which to showcase the many talents of Palm Beach County residents,” Carbone beamed.
Shell of a Man was presented as a staged reading at the Dallas Convention Center last April where it was warmly received. Carbone incorporated suggestions from that audience into the presentation that will take place at Harbourside. This time the play will be presented as a workshop performance, which is the second step in the production process, and will include another talk back with the audience at the end of the show.
The dinner portion of the evening will begin at 5:00 pm and will include a fixed price menu with a selection of two main courses. The meal will include a glass of wine and/or a cold beverage. The cost for both the dinner and the show is $30.00. The play will begin at 7:00 pm. Seating is limited. Tickets can be ordered by calling 561 384-1584.
For more information, contact Donna M. Carbone at email@example.com or call 561 385-1584.
Shell of a Man was presented at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters at the Dallas Convention Center in April 2015. This five year labor of love is told through the life of one man while actually portraying the lives of the many thousands of men who have known the suffering of post traumatic stress disorder.
He calls himself Robert L. We’ve never met. His face is but a ghostly image on a blog page that carries his name. I hear his voice only through the emails we exchange. His words leave me heavy-hearted and longing to help. He is a black man who has tasted the prejudice of a Southern upbringing... a man who was conceived without love to a 16-year-old girl and given away to foster parents He picked his first bag of cotton at the age of two. At the age of 18, he joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam. For more than 14 months, Robert witnessed and took part in actions no human should have to experience. He became hard. He lost faith. He saw death and wished to die. He is or was a husband, father, soldier and law enforcement officer. Robert rose to the pinnacle of success as a union president and fell into the basement of despair as a janitor. He is one man. He is many men.
Unlike so many Vietnam veterans, Robert is not homeless. There is a roof over his head, but that roof is weighted with transgressions, real and imagined. Guilt presses heavily on him, draining his spirit and leaving him alone and lonely. He dwells in the cold, dark places in his mind, too frightened to seek the warmth of human companionship.
Robert gave his heart to a woman, his soul to his child, dedication to his country and loyalty to his employers. He has known some joy but the memory is lost to depression. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress, which is no longer considered a disorder by the military. PTS has been reclassified as a “normal” reaction – like sleeplessness -- to the horrific events in a soldier’s life. Forty years is a long time to go without sleep. In the years since his return from the war, Robert has suffered many such “normal” reactions, including placing the cold, steel barrel of a gun in his mouth. Thankfully, he has chosen not to swallow a bullet... yet.